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When using a public restroom ...Should you sit on the seat?

March 07, 1997

By KATE COLEMAN

Staff Writer

Are you sitting down?

Should you sit down - on toilets in public restrooms?

Are you still reading?

It may not be the most pleasant or socially acceptable topic of conversation, but you have to admit it's crossed your mind once or twice when you've been out and about.

Are the hazards associated with public restrooms something to be concerned about?

"There is always a risk of contracting gastro-intestinal illnesses," according to Dr. Robert Parker, Health Officer for Washington County Health Department. The transmission of sexually transmitted diseases is very unlikely, he adds.

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Parker provides a common sense answer to the "to sit or not to sit" question: If the toilet looks dirty, don't sit on it.

He also advises using the tissue-like seat covers provided in some public restrooms whenever possible.

Rusty Schindel, president of Hagerstown-based Antietam Paper Co., says his company sells "more than our fair share" of the flushable seat covers to area businesses. He says they are used in both men's and women's bathrooms. Sales have increased gradually since the late 1980s.

Wash your hands

What's more important, Parker emphasizes, is washing your hands carefully after using the commode and handling the seat. Hands should be washed well for several minutes using lots of soap between the fingers as well as on the rest of the hand.

This is the first year that a hospital-grade germicidal hand soap is being used in the schools, according to Jeff Harr, facilities assistant in operations for Washington County public schools.

Cleaning school bathrooms is a priority for custodians. Every bathroom - every toilet, every urinal - is cleaned every night. "That's something we don't compromise on," Harr says.

"Kids get messy - by mistake or on purpose," he adds. But, it's part of the custodian's job.

The schools use a broad spectrum detergent disinfectant cleaner. It is formulated to kill a wide variety of nasty things, including bacteria such as staph and strep, viruses such as flu, herpes and HIV, and fungus. It's targets also include the bugs that cause Hepatitis B and tuberculosis.

Roy Rowland, owner of Rowland's Cleaning Services in Hagerstown cleans businesses, doctor's offices, hair salons and homes. Although their use is not mandated, Rowland also uses chemical disinfectants in his work.

Rowland has found that people don't like to talk about cleaning bathrooms. "It's kind of embarrassing," he says. But, he adds, there's an "unwritten rule that the bathrooms have to be the cleanest part of the job."

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